Daily Archives: April 30, 2013

Book Review: Ten Things I’ve Learnt about Love by Sarah Butler

Ten Things I've Learnt About Love by Sarah Butler Title: Ten Things I’ve Learnt About Love
Author: Sarah Butler
Publisher: Picador
ISBN: 978-1447222491
Genre: Literary Fiction
Pages: 292
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4/5

It was the title’s unusual quality that drew me to it. I wanted to then read it and find out more. What was the book about? Why this title? I was guessing that it would be a love story for sure, however I did not for once think it was a love story of a father and his daughter. Of the relationship they share and what they don’t and how their love comes to be and what they learn from it over a period of time. That in brief was the essence of “Ten Things I’ve Learnt about Love”.

“Ten Things I’ve Learnt about Love” may seem the usual run of the mill dysfunctional family story; however let me tell you at the very outset, that it is not. The story is about belonging and wanting to really badly and yet staying away from it. Alice has just returned to London after travelling abroad and come home to her father who is living at the pity and criticism of her two older sisters. She has never felt close to him and now everything seems different and new. Daniel her father is the other central character who is living homeless, from one shelter to another, and desperately looking for someone all these years.

The story shifts between both their perspectives all along the book. The dual narrative style completely worked for me. What I loved was the way Sarah Butler at some point made their lives overlap and make sense of the entire book. The novel’s every chapter starts with a list of ten things, about various things of life and those were my best parts of the book. More so, the book seems to be a love letter to the city. London forms a major part of the book, almost a third character which is described beautifully. As a reader, all I wanted to do after reading the book was catch a plane and visit the places she mentions.

It is very difficult to believe that this is Sarah’s first book. It is detailed, vivid and almost magical in its scope. It is about regular people and beautiful lives that twist and turn and how somehow one manages to make sense of it all. The book is gradual, subtle and absolutely stunning. It will definitely stay with me for a very long time with its unusual format and the usual miracles of love and happiness.

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Book Review: New Selected Stories by Alice Munro

New Selected Stories by Alice Munro Title: New Selected Stories
Author: Alice Munro
Publisher: Chatto and Windus, Random House
ISBN: 978-0701179885
Genre: Short Stories
Pages: 448
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5/5

If there is one short-story writer I would like to meet and know more about, it would be Alice Munro. Her skill and magnificence of the craft have always left me speechless. She writes without caring, without knowing and without expecting or so it seems every time I read her collection of stories. There is something about them which maybe cannot be defined. It can only be felt by the reader. It will be felt by you if you pick up and read any of her short stories. She is that wonderful and adept at what she does. I am only humbled every time I read her works.

“New Selected Stories” is a collection of stories from five books spanning from 1998-2009, almost a decade, depicting the key aspects of her writing. Why is she so good you ask? Or for that matter, why do I revere her the way I do? That is because she knows how to notice human beings. She sees them in their weakness and strengths and puts it down in the form of a simple story sometimes, with only too complex characters and how their lives are led, day by day and as the years pass on.

The stories never lose momentum. She always knows what to say and when to say it. For instance, “Chance” is all about fate and what role it plays in a person’s life, when she meets a stranger on a train. On the other hand, “The Bear Came over the Mountain” is about a woman and her husband dealing with her Alzheimer’s. “The Love of a Good Woman” is all about what it means to love and more so what it means to lose.

I do not know why but every time I read a short story by Alice Munro, I am forced to introspect and think of events in my life. If a writer manages to do that, then maybe there is something about her. Her stories are just like life – bittersweet and often unexpected. You cannot put down her collection and do anything else. The only problem sometimes is the length of the stories, but I guess that is okay, because once you get engrossed in any of them, you do not want it to end. And honestly I do not know of how many authors I can say that? I can say that about Alice Munro for sure. All my money on her writing skills. She is beyond super. These fifteen stories will dazzle you every time you read them. You will reread for sure.

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